When Dogs Fly…Part 2: Four Steps Before You Fly
Ok, last time we didn’t even get near an airplane. There is plenty of prep you can do to make travel easier for your pet before you ever get to the aircraft. After some fun work with lots of rewards, hopefully you now have a pet who is comfortable around strangers and with the restraint system that is going to keep him or her safe on board. As I mentioned, we work with pets flying in the cabin on private jets, so that is how these tips are written, but you can get some good ideas from these articles. If you have specific questions about commercial air travel or even car travel or camping, shoot me a note and I’ll try to help you out there too!
The first thing to keep in mind the day of your trip is to allow plenty of time so you don’t start rushing around. Getting everything packed up and in the car is stressful enough for your pet, you don’t need to ramp it up with rushing around and getting frustrated when they ask for a little reassurance that their world is ok. The second thing to keep in mind is that everything will take twice as long as you anticipate, so allow a little extra time. When you arrive at the FBO, have a walk-about and let your pet have one last relief break and stretch. We always meet our guests with dogs out on the tarmac. Some dogs get really excited meeting new people and jump around and show excitement in other ways that might damage the fine interior of a private jet. It’s best to have that excitement outside… If you are flying with a less “pet savvy” crew, invite them to meet you outside before entering the aircraft to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Once you enter the aircraft, have a quick look around to make sure there aren’t any bowls of candy or flowers at grazing level for your pet. We always “pet proof” our cabins, including using only cleaning products that are pet-safe, but usually when you enter your private jet there are pre-flight goodies set out for your enjoyment on the credenza (perfect for counter surfing!) along with flowers. It is amazing how fast a dog can zero in on that and make the rest of your flight unpleasant at the very least.
Next it is time to set up a safe place and home for your pet. Most cats like to remain in their carriers and may be strapped into a seat with the existing seat belt assembly. Most dogs prefer to have free reign of the cabin, but for their safety and the safety of the operation this needs some boundaries. We always set up a dog bed near their seat, or you can bring their favorite if you prefer. The harnesses we discussed in our last post attach easily to the seat belt while still allowing them to sit up or lay down at their seat. We also bring a longer tether for smooth in-flight use that allows them to roam a little more, but will prevent them from injury should we hit unexpected turbulence. This also keeps them from taking to heart the phrase “dog is my co-pilot!” The added bonus is that you may now relax without holding a leash or constantly watching to see where your dog might be during the entire flight. Pretty much everybody is happy! Add a favorite (or new and exciting) toy to the bed, and your dog has a comfy place to relax that feels like home.
On our flights we introduce pet parents to a Pet Safety Briefing Card which is just like the one you have seen for humans. It goes over what you are going to do to help your pet in the event of the emergency situations we brief you on at the beginning of each flight. If you are on a flight with a crew that does not cater to animals that way, think ahead about what you will do if any of the situations occur that they brief you on. Think through a plan. You won’t be able to do that suddenly and in a panic, so just give it some thought when there is no emergency. If you ever need to act, you will have a plan and be a much better guardian for your pet. Now you can all settle in knowing you are well prepared and enjoy your flight. We’ll give you tips on just how to do that next time. Until then… enjoy the ride!